Profane Marvel antihero Deadpool is poised to wallop the competition at the multiplex, giving a boost to the box office over the Presidents Day weekend, which will also see the debut of "Zoolander 2."
"Deadpool," a very R-rated twist on the superhero genre, could generate as much as $70 million in ticket sales through Monday in the U.S. and Canada, according to people who have seen pre-release audience surveys.
Film studio 20th Century Fox, which is releasing the new picture, is projecting a more conservative $60 million to $65 million for the action-comedy.
Either way, it is expected to easily unseat "Kung Fu Panda 3" as the top movie on the domestic charts. The production budget for "Deadpool" was $58 million, relatively low for a superhero film.
Actor Ryan Reynolds plays Wade Wilson, who acquires self-healing powers after being diagnosed with cancer. Reynolds, who first appeared as Deadpool in Fox's 2009 offering "X-Men Origins: Wolverine," hopes to turn around his box-office fortunes after starring in duds like "R.I.P.D." and "Self/Less."
The highly anticipated movie has already generated strong pre-sales of tickets. "Deadpool" has been Fandango's daily top-seller for the last two weeks.
The subversive film has benefited from an unusually tongue-in-cheek marketing push, including ads using emojis and a billboard making the film look like a corny romance for Valentine's Day.
Paramount Pictures' "Zoolander 2" will also try to woo filmgoers over the holiday weekend and is expected end up with around $25 million through Monday. The sequel, directed by and starring Ben Stiller, cost about $50 million to make.
The original "Zoolander," which starred Stiller and Owen Wilson as dimwitted male models, was released in 2001 and grossed just $45 million in its full domestic run, but developed a devoted following after it was released on home video.
Comedy sequels have a mixed track record at the box office, with flops like "Hot Tub Time Machine 2" and "Horrible Bosses 2."
Still, Paramount has been heavily marketing the picture with TV appearances and social media stunts, while trying to avoid the scorched-earth campaign that hampered "Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues."
For the female audience, New Line Cinema and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer are releasing "How to Be Single," an R-rated romantic comedy starring Dakota Johnson and Rebel Wilson. The $37-million production should open with $21 million to $23 million in domestic ticket sales.
Johnson, known for "Fifty Shades of Grey," plays a woman awkwardly navigating single life in New York City after a breakup. The studios hope to benefit from the lack of compelling offerings for women in the marketplace over the Valentine's Day weekend.
This weekend will also mark the return of documentarian Michael Moore, whose new movie "Where to Invade Next" will run in more than 300 theaters. It's getting its release from former Radius-TWC executives Tom Quinn and Jason Janego, along with Alamo Drafthouse Chief Executive Tim League.
The film follows Moore, the liberal provocateur behind "Fahrenheit 9/11" and "Bowling for Columbine," as he "invades" other countries to find solutions to America's problems including those in education, criminal justice and healthcare.